The general who led efforts to train Iraq's army and police units said Wednesday that progress is mixed and long-term U.S. help is needed.
Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik said Iraq's security forces have grown from 444,000 to 566,000 since he assumed command of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in June 2007 and are better able to execute operations on their own.
But the fast-growing force still lacks experienced leaders and the ability to train all its new recruits, Dubik told the House Armed Services Committee.
"As I often said to my command in Baghdad, `Progress doesn't result in no problems, it results in new problems,"' he said in his written testimony.
The war, now in its sixth year, is an important issue in the presidential election and the progress of Iraq's security forces is seen as necessary to help smooth a U.S. exit.
Republicans and Democrats said they were eager to see Iraqi security forces take more control.
"The ability of the Iraqi forces to move out and accomplish a mission in a professional manner I think is a lot of concern to us," said Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the committee's top Republican.
Dubik, who is retiring, did not say how long he thought the Iraqis might need U.S. help.
"Our assistance may change in organization and size, to be sure. But some form of partnership and assistance, consistent with our two nation's strategic objectives, in my opinion, is still necessary," he told the committee.
The Iraqi military said Wednesday that the number of "terrorist attacks" in June declined 85 percent from the same period a year ago. Despite the security gains, frequent attacks continue throughout the country.
When Dubik testified before Congress in January, he said Iraq was on track to reach some 580,000 security force members by the end of the year but that the forces still were a long-way from becoming self-sufficient. Iraqi officials estimated to him that the country probably would not be able to assume responsibility for internal security until sometime between 2009 and 2012 or defend its borders before 2018, he said.
In his testimony Wednesday, Dubik recommended streamlining laws and rules that he said have delayed U.S. military equipment purchased by Iraq. Iraq has ordered $2.7 billion in equipment, but received just $1.4 billion, he wrote.
Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick assumed control of the U.S. training command last week. Dubik is retiring after 37 years of service.